Thursday, August 26, 2010

Writing Wednesday - Colorado Travels


Last week Ashley & I drove over to New Orleans to drop off Puggles, Texas Ranger at his grandparents' house, and then catch a flight to Denver.  The reason for our visit was two-fold: to visit some of our Air Force friends now living in Colorado Springs (who used to live with us in Delaware), and to attend the wedding of our friends Brian & Claude in Estes Park.

I'd prepared for our flight by loading up the television miniseries of Stephen King's "The Shining" on my iPad to watch on the plane.  This version of the movie was filmed at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, where we were staying for two nights of our visit.  Watching the movie over a couple of cocktails and chocolate chip cookies on our Frontier Airlines flight made for pleasant travels.

After renting a car at Denver International Airport, we headed south to Colorado Springs to visit our friends, the Tydingcos.  My love of gadgets is surpassed perhaps only by my buddy Anthony, so it was a lot of fun getting to check out his new home theater setup and hard drive collection.  Our evening was somewhat bittersweet, though, as Ashley & I learned that one of my fellow lieutenants from Dover Air Force Base, Tate Baloun, had died in an airplane crash in South Dakota only a few weeks earlier.

The next morning, we awoke to Christine cooking us a giant breakfast to start the day.  The first item on our agenda that day was to visit the United States Air Force Academy.  I'd visited the Academy during the summer of 2001 to participate in the SOAR glider program, but this was Ashley's first visit to the institution.  The cadets were already in classes for the fall, so we got to witness some of the freshmen marching in lines along the Terrazzo in the center of the Academy.

After a beef brisket-filled lunch at Rudy's BBQ in Colorado Springs, we headed to Manitou Springs to catch the Pike's Peak Cog Railway.  This 3.5 hour round trip train took us up to the top of Pikes Peak, at a whopping 14,110 feet in elevation (see picture above).  When we arrived at the top, I went into the gift center to look for their world-famous donuts.  The elevation made me extremely light-headed, though, and I ended up knocking over a shelf of stuffed animals while trying to gain my footing.  Given the lack of oxygen, this just seemed humorous, so I picked up the animals, found my donuts, and giggled for several minutes before venturing back outside to take photographs.

That evening, we grilled out back at the Tydingco's house, and got to catch up with our friends the Falks, too.  Brian was getting ready to deploy to Iraq for six months, so he got to pick Ty's brain about what to expect and what to bring.  Ty did a year-long deployment at Camp Victory in 2008, so we all sat around and listened to modern-day war stories.  Truly captivating stuff.

The next morning, the Falks hosted us at their house for another giant breakfast (yes, food was clearly a theme during this trip).  Ashley & I actually lived with the Falks during our last week in Delaware, and their dog, Sadie, is widely rumored to be the dog that finally convinced me that I should add a dog to the Western household.

After saying our goodbyes to our friends in Colorado Springs, Ashley & I headed north to Denver.  While we only spent 2 hours in the city, we were able to scout out most of downtown, grab some pictures of Coors Field, and even get recommendations for breweries to check out in Boulder from a random bartender.

Based upon that recommendation from our bartender at Rialto Cafe on 16th Street in Denver, we intended to check out the Walnut Brewery in Boulder.  However, after we made the 45 minute drive and parked our car, the most serendipitous of venues turned out to be located right next door:  the Boulder Absinthe House.  This restaurant / electronica club hybrid had only opened a couple of weeks before our arrival, but it was a perfect match for my interests.  As soon as we walked in the door, my eye spotted a bottle of my favorite absinthe behind the bar:  Jade Liqueurs Nouvelle-Orléans.  The only other place in America that I've found this absinthe is in Pirate's Alley in New Orleans, and I chronicled my discovery of that venue last year here.

Once we finished our absinthe & lunch in Boulder, we headed onward to Estes Park.  This would be the site of The Stanley Hotel, and the wedding we were attending.  When we checked into the hotel, the woman at the front desk indicated we would be in room 213.  As it turns out, room 217 (the haunted room from The Shining) was only two doors down, so Ashley was immediately freaked out.  I tweeted this out, and within a few minutes The Stanley Hotel responded, indicating that rooms 215 & 219 (our adjacent rooms) were also haunted.  Kudos to the venue for their social media savvy!

That night we attended the Kelly rehearsal dinner, and got to visit with Brian & Claude's extended family.  Since Brian & I have been friends for a decade, I'd met many of his family & friends previously, but it was enjoyable getting reacquainted in such a festive setting.

The next morning, the gentleman in the wedding party were up early to take a hike on Mills Lake Trail in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Hiking uphill from 7,000 to 10,000 feet turned out to be challenging, but the 9 of us on the adventure were able to make the 5 mile round-trip in 2.5 hours.

We all got back to the hotel with just enough time to shower & toss on our suits prior to the photographer showing up and then heading to the church.  As an added bonus, the wedding photographer looked almost identical to Richie Hawtin, which I pointed out to him by showing him this photograph.

The wedding itself was in a very small church built atop a giant boulder.  It was both memorable & romantic, so I have to give credit to Brian & Claude for choosing such an appropriate venue.  When the ceremony was complete, we all headed back to The Stanley for the reception to begin.  They'd hired a jazz band for the occasion, and we were treated to a sit-down steak dinner.  A truly classy and memorable affair.

Below I've linked in the various photo sets & videos that Ashley & I shot during our trip.  Hopefully it won't be another nine years before I can visit Colorado again!


Colorado Trip 2010 (The Entire Photo Collection)
Air Force Academy Visit
Pikes Peak Visit
Denver Visit
Boulder Visit
The Stanley Hotel
Hike In Rocky Mountain National Park
Brian & Claude's Wedding


Scale Model of United States Air Force Academy
United States Air Force Academy "Pursuit of Excellence" Video
View From Atop Pikes Peak Clip 1
View From Atop Pikes Peak Clip 2
Buster & Sadie Falk Around The Breakfast Table
Serving Jade Liqueur Nouvelle-Orleans Absinthe At Boulder Absinthe House
Driving Up To Estes Park
In Front of The Stanley Hotel Clip 1
In Front of The Stanley Hotel Clip 2
In Front of The Stanley Hotel Clip 3
In Front of The Stanley Hotel Clip 4
Rocky Mountain National Park Hike Clip 1
Rocky Mountain National Park Hike Clip 2
Rocky Mountain National Park Hike Clip 3
Wedding Reception at The Stanley Hotel
Matt Morales Gives Best Man Toast At Kelly Wedding
First Dance at the Kelly Wedding

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